Constance Regardsoe has a longstanding fascination with water and uses it to express ideas of time and impermanence. The intricacy of the patterns of light and water in her paintings speaks of transience; a brief split second sooner or later in the captured source image would alter them radically. By contrast, the fleeting moment that is captured in each of her paintings juxtaposes with the time-consuming painting process she employs, and the moment is painstakingly recreated over weeks, like an insect being preserved in amber. The use of a figure in her painting serves to remind the viewer of our collective smallness; in her more abstract pieces, the form of the figure is radically altered, a visual reminder of our own ephemerality and the inevitability of being changed by our surroundings.
Water has a dual nature, both calming and life-giving, whilst simultaneously unknowable and threatening. Constance Regardsoe seeks to explore this duality in her body of work; some of her pieces imbue the viewer with a sense of tranquility and calm, with others, largely the pieces of figures breaking the waters surface, in the split second or emergence, offer something more urgent, the deep primal need to rise and draw breath.
Hello, I am a painter, I’m 26, and my name is Constance Regardsoe.
I am an emerging artist, and my work for the past few years, and I expect the coming many, examines water. I believe water provides the perfect visual metaphor to talk about time and impermanence. When I paint, I work closely from source photographs that I capture myself. Often, some or most of the figure is submerged, and the water creates intense and strange distortions upon the submerged body. In this way, the configuration of the body, the water, and the light is entirely unique that the individual ephemeral moment of capture – a split second sooner or later, and the distortions created would alter radically, much more so than if you were to photograph something without the water as an intermediary. I am fascinated by the fleetingness of these moments, and I believe that it is important, vital, for us to remember how quickly time passes, and how the past cannot be returned to.
We are all powerless in the face of time, moments pass and we all age. This is something that I think about when I create the distorted bodies that feature in my work. The water moves and changes the lines of the face and the body, in the same way that we cannot help but be changed by our surroundings. I don’t believe this is a negative thing, and I hope that my paintings convey this in a calming, accepting, and potentially even joyful way. This was very much at the forefront of my mind last year, during the lockdowns of 2020. Many of us found ourselves with greatly reduced control over our lives. I struggled with this, but I found catharsis in making work that celebrated acceptance and letting go.
I believe that this line of thought can be incredibly healing. Given the relentless press of time, it does not serve to hold on to things in the past. Again, I feel water helps to describe this; we cannot hold it, it slips through our fingers. On a deeply personal level, this is one of the most important lessons I learnt in my personal life. Several years ago I was the victim of a violent crime. I carried trauma and anger as a result, and in many ways, though not always evident on the surface, it held me back. It was not for years after the incident that I returned to painting water, and I believe that one some level, I could only paint the subject once I had begun to let go.
Another key theme in my work is the importance of the subject. The artist Richard Schmid has an incredibly beautiful quote about how all of us have a ‘wordless centre, a part that has remained unchanged since we were children, the source of our strength and compassion’ and that truly great art comes from this place. This is something I really believe in. My paintings are an exercise in resilience; they often take over a hundred hours a piece, and there will be points when the dream of what I want to achieve battles against the limitations of my technical skill. In other words – it is hard. There are times when I want to give up. One of the big things that drive me on, is the emotional connections with my models – in what I believe to be my best works, I have admiration, respect and a kind of love towards the figures in my paintings – and I want to capture them in something that is the very best of what I can create. The muse behind much of my recent work is a close friend and oncology nurse. Without going into detail because it is not my story to share, she has endured more in her life than most. Despite this, she chose, and I emphasis chose, as she had the intelligence and drive to pursue any number of directions, to become an oncology nurse, a career that demands incredible and ceaseless compassion, grit and resilience – and offers not even close to the financial remuneration it deserves. This person has appeared in no less that six paintings, and I try to imbue my work with some of the resilience and strength of character they symbolise for me.
I realise that often people look at my work and see beauty in it. This is not something I have a problem with, but I do feel that it highlights the impact of a culture that has trained audiences to value depictions of women for their aesthetic value rather than the meaning that underpins them. I suppose this is part of what people are talking about in the nebulous phrase ‘the male gaze’. This is a source of tension that I believe will stay with me long into my art career.
Many thanks for taking the time to read, if people would like to see more of my work, they are welcome to get follow my Instagram page @regardsoe.artwork.
Constance Regardsoe “Penumbra” Oil on canvas 99cm x 99cm
Constance Regardsoe “Sundance” Oil on canvas 91cm x 91cm
Constance Regardsoe “The Altered Surface” Oil on canvas 71cm x 92cm
Constance Regardsoe “The Kick” Oil on canvas 76cm x 102cm